Prayer Focus
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also known as “Atto di fede,” “Breakthrough - Zurück ins Leben,” “Przyplyw wiary,” “Superação: O Milagre da Fé,” “Um Ato de Fé,” “Un amor inquebrantable,” “Un Amor Inquebrantable”
MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for thematic content including peril.

Reviewed by: Samiatu Dosunmu

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young-Adults • Teens • Family • Kids
Biography Drama Adaptation
1 hr. 36 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 17, 2019 (wide—2,824 theaters)
DVD: July 16, 2019
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

About fear and despair

What is FAITH and why is it important? Answer

About hope

About PRAYER in God’s Word

PRAYER—Tips for new and growing Christians

Why aren’t my prayers answered? Answer

Effectual prayer



Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

What is LOVE, for a follower of Christ? Answer

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

About MIRACLES in the Bible, including comprehensive list

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Why is our level of HUMILITY important? Answer

What is the FEAR OF THE LORD and why is it very important? Answer


PHYSICAL HEALING—Is it guaranteed in Christ’s atonement, as some claim?—“…with his stripes we are healed.” Answer

About the MIRACLES of the Bible, with comprehensive list

Is it logical to believe that the biblical miracles really happened? Answer

Are you thankful to God?

Being a person that is overly controlling

Featuring: Chrissy MetzJoyce Smith
Topher GracePastor Jason Noble
Josh LucasBrian Smith
Dennis HaysbertDoctor Garrett
Marcel RuizJohn Smith
Sam TrammellDr. Kent Sutterer
Mike ColterTommy Shine
Rebecca StaabCindy Reiger
See all »
Director: Roxann Dawson
Producer: DeVon Franklin—“Miracles from Heaven,” “Heaven Is for Real” (author, Seventh-day Adventist preacher, motivational speaker)
Fox 2000 Pictures
Twentieth Century Fox
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a division of The Walt Disney Company

This film is based on the book, The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s.

John Smith (Marcel Ruiz), a 14-year-old teen, lives in Missouri with his mother Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and father Brian (Josh Lucas). They are Christians, and Joyce is determined to raise and run her home as such. It is revealed that John was adopted by the Smiths, as a baby, during a mission’s trip to Guatemala. John often struggles with being adopted, because, in his eyes, he questions why his birth mother did not want him.

At school, John is popular and well-liked by his peers. He is talented in basketball, but is often reminded by his coach that the sport is a team effort; his ego prevents him from seeing that.

Meanwhile, Joyce, is an active church member, leading several ministries. However, she is very hostile toward Pastor Jason (Topher Grace), because she does not like his haircut nor his efforts in making the church more welcoming to the youth. She takes issue with the incorporation of rap in the worship team and his references to pop culture as part of his sermons.

On January 24, 2015 (Martin Luther King Jr Day), John and his friends Josh (Isaac Kragten) and Reiger (Nikolas Dukic), decide to spend a fun day playing in the park that borders the ice-covered lake of St. Louis. On a dare, the teens decide to skate on the frozen lake. They are warned by a restaurant owner overlooking the lake to get off the ice. The teens ignore the warning.

Note: This review contains some possible ***SPOILERS*** .

Minutes later, the ice cracks, sucking all three teens into the water. Josh manages to crawl out, with the help of John, but, in the process, accidentally kicks John in the head, rendering him unconscious. He loses his grip and begins to sink to the bottom of the lake. The fire department and police are immediately called to the scene. Firefighter Tommy Shine (Mike Colter), along with his colleague, immediately rescues Reiger. Both Josh and Reiger tell Tommy that John is drowning and sinking to the bottom. Tommy and his partner immediately jump into the water with equipment to locate John. By this time, John has been under water for 15 minutes; the chances of finding him alive are grim. At one point, Tommy hears what he believes is his fire chief (Chuck Shamata) telling him to abandon the search. He then hears another voice instructing him to keep searching. Minutes later, a frozen John is rescued. He is breathing but has no pulse.

He is immediately loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the local hospital where Dr. Ken Sutterer (Sam Trammell) and his team frantically try to generate a pulse. Meanwhile, Joyce, is informed of her son’s condition. She immediately rushes to the hospital to see her son. After an hour of trying to generate a pulse, Dr. Sutterer informs Joyce that her son is clinically dead. Joyce immediately insists on seeing her son.

Upon seeing him in an unresponsive state, she begins to pray. Overcome with grief, she cries out to the Holy Spirit to bring life back into her son. Minutes later, a faint pulse begins to register.

With renewed hope, Dr. Sutterer immediately arranges for Josh to be transferred into the care of renowned drowning expert Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert). Dr. Garrett warns both Joyce and Brian that John’s prognosis is grim. Joyce tells Dr. Garrett that she is putting her full trust in him, because he is the best and she expects him to do everything medically possible to save her son.

Through the relentless efforts of Dr. Garrett’s team, support from the church (including Pastor Jason), prayer and unshakable faith, John slowly recovers after coming out of a medically induced coma and is completely healed, showing no signs of his ordeal within two days. This baffles medical experts. Two weeks later, John is released from the hospital and resumes his regular life. ***END SPOILERS***

Spiritual Explorations


The primary message of this film is miracles. John Smith’s ordeal and recovery was a miracle. Psalms 77:14 “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” God is a God of miracles. The Bible uses three main words to refer to a miracle: sign, wonder, and power. These three words help us better understand what the phrase “God of miracles” means. In short, a miracle is an act of God beyond human understanding that displays God’s power, inspires wonder in humans, and acts as a sign that God is at work in the world.

“Miracles are not possible,” some claim. Is this true? Answer

When John awakes from his medically induced coma and is responsive showing no signs of brain damage or memory loss, Dr. Garrett pulls Joyce aside and confides in her that in all his years of work, with his medical training, knowledge, and the cases he has treated, John’s recovery is by far the most baffling to him. He finally concedes that John’s recovery is a miracle. It is evident that he cannot quite explain nor grasp the concept.

As believers, from a human perspective, we understand that a miracle of God is an extraordinary or unnatural event (a wonder) that reveals or confirms a specific message (a sign) through a mighty work (power). From the God of miracle’s vantage point, a miracle is nothing extraordinary or unnatural. It is simply a divine display of His might (power) that attracts the attention of humans (a wonder) to His Word or His purposes (a sign). Joyce, Brian, Pastor Jason, and the church community see John’s miraculous recovery as God revealing His power to us, and therefore is worthy of praise:

“Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds.” —Psalms 72:18


Aphra White wrote,

“The times we continue to walk in seemingly utter hopelessness are the very times He will ‘stretch out [His] hand against the anger of [our foes]’ (Psalms 138:7). He will bring our trouble to completion, causing the Enemy’s attack to cease and to fail. In light of this, what reason would there ever be for despair?”

Joyce’s unfailing faith and belief that her son will recover is the heart and soul of this film. In John’s initial rescue, after being under water for 15 minutes, Tommy, the firefighter presses on, despite his colleague’s comment, “We are looking for a body; this is not a rescue mission.” When Dr. Sutterer, the emergency physician that tries to generate a pulse, informs Joyce to be prepared to say goodbye, it is her unshakable faith and belief in God that causes her to pray with gusto over her son.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Joyce is sure of what she hopes, and, although she cannot physically see the Holy Spirit, she calls upon Him to save her son. Faith is essential in a Christian life. Prayer is a part of faith, but if one does not believe, then prayer becomes fruitless.

Ephesians 2:8-9 states,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


As medical staff do everything, they possibly can to save John, Joyce becomes hostile. This is evident when Pastor Jason, who she does not like, shows up to support the family. She also tries to control the medical staff and anyone who speaks negatively about John’s prognosis—negative comments such as “I don’t know why we are spending so much time on this case when our time and resources could be spent elsewhere.” She also spends a lot of time telling medical staff what to do or addressing the members of the community who show up to support her and her husband that she will not tolerate any negative talk regarding her son. If they do not believe he will recover, the way she is convinced, they are free to leave.

This prompts her husband to reprimand her, stating that she is too controlling of the situation. She retaliates by responding that if it were not for her, John would not even be alive. Brian is disgusted and reminds her not to forget who she is. Eventually, the ordeal takes a tole on her health; she is a type one diabetic and is neglecting to take her insulin. When she nearly goes into a diabetic coma, Dr. Garrett orders her on bedrest.

While resting, she is visited by Pastor Jason and confesses to him that she gave birth to a child at 18, but gave it up for adoption. She was not ready to be a parent, but carries extreme guilt over her decision. As a coping mechanism, she finally recognizes that she is controlling both in her home and her servitude. Pastor Jason compassionately reminds her to let God do his work and accept that no matter the outcome, God is in control.

As Christians, personal convictions should have a biblical foundation and not be based on emotion:

“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” —Proverbs 28:26

Moviemaking quality

The movie is shot clearly, and gives a sense to the viewer that they are a part of this journey, right along with the Smiths and the community. Although it is a faith-based film, the events are easy to follow for both believers and non. However, despite the secular undertones, it addresses issues such as the inner conflict one may go through giving birth to a child and putting the baby up for adoption or emotions an adoptee may experience.

Although the subject of miracles is the focal point of the film, it does not go into lengthy explanation, but rather leaves room for the audience to process the mystery of miracles.

It also addresses the subject of atheism. Tommy, the firefighter who rescued John, struggles to make sense of the voices he heard while in the water. Later, he tries to process the miracle of John’s recovery. His soul-searching leaves enough room for him to question his atheistic beliefs. When John makes a full recovery and leaves the hospital, he is conflicted by what happened to him. He runs into Tommy. They both ponder, and John says to Tommy, “We are both made for great things.”

Content of concern

A part of John’s bare torso is seen when the emergency staff is trying to administer CPR.

Language: • “h*ll” (2) • “Oh my G*d” (2) • “bullsh*t” • “Don't be a wuss” • “They're hot” (boy says about some girls) • “Shut it” • One of Tommy’s peers calls him “ese,” a reference to his Guatemalan heritage. • Pastor Jason refers to John’s basketball skills as “Lit.”

Secular music, such as “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, can be heard, although it is the clean version of the song. Rap is incorporated in praise and worship during service (this may be offensive to some).

Wind shines are used to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit (this may seem odd or offensive to some).

How is wind like the Holy Spirit?

Facts of interest

The real John Smith made a full recovery. He did physical therapy for a short period for wrist movement. John Smith’s case has become legendary in the medical community. He often grants interviews explaining his ordeal.

Pastor Jason and the Smiths remain close to this day.

Actress Chrissy Metz is quoted as saying at the film’s premiere, “I am an absolute believer in the power of prayer. It has helped me so much in my life, and it is the reason why I am standing here.”

  • Profane language: Mild to moderate
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Mild
  • Violence: Minor
  • Nudity: Minor
  • Sex: Minor
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This movie is made surprisingly well. The acting is done well and the “true story” is not overly “sappy. The fact that the lead character played by Chrissy Metz is written and performed well. Her character calling out to God for help when her son falls through the ice is realistic and tragic. The Pastor played by Topher Grace who does a good job of showing compassion and support speaks volumes to how a pastor should respond to a crisis. There is humor and drama in this movie, and I can recommend as a great family movie to see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Wayne, age 64 (USA)
Positive—This is a very good movie with an outstanding acting performance by Chrissy Metz, of “This is Us” fame. It is a true story based on the best-selling book, “The Impossible,” by Joyce Smith about her son John who came back to life after she prayed. It’s an amazing story and this is probably one of the very best Christian films in terms of the messages contained. Also, the Holy Spirit is mentioned, which is rare in even faith-based films.

My only concern is that there are a few mild swear words such as BS, and H, as well as about three inappropriate uses of God’s name. So, although the movie is high in quality, I think it is sad that we have to be subjected to swearing in a faith-based film. This is probably a successful attempt to be accepted in the mainstream. I do think the movie has the ability to reach the unsaved and it’s certainly a very powerful story. I somehow doubt the real boy is the swearing type. He’s now studying for the ministry.

Another thing that is mentioned is how God heals some people and not others and how this is a quandary that we can’t understand, and it also touched on “survivor’s guilt” which is a very real emotion. So the movie has a “realistic feel.” Despite its minor flaws, I’d highly recommend this film, and I plan to read the book!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Kathy Pj, age 58 (Canada)
Positive—This movie is on my top 5 list of movies I’ve seen this year. I found myself fighting back the tears all through the second half of the movie. Me, being a man and all, I could never embarrass myself by letting a movie make me cry. From looking at the trailers, I was considering skipping this one, because I thought it was going to be boring. After all, how exciting can a movie about a boy falling through the ice possibly be?

Boy was I ever wrong about this one. It was not in the least bit boring, and is definitely worthy of the honor of being inducted into my Christian Movie Hall of Fame (AKA my DVD library).

There were some almost cuss words, and I do recall the pastor mentioning the hot place in a curse context, but other than that, I didn’t notice any real offensive content. When I looked around the theater, there were only old gray haired people in the audience, but I would recommend this movie to all ages.

This movie reminds me of the movie “Joni.” “Joni” was good, but this one is much better. Overall, Breakthrough was very well done. One of the best Christian movies I’ve seen. Bring your tissues with you when you go see it. You’re going to need them.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Frank, age 50 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I absolutely LOVED this movie! Chrissy Metz deserves an Academy Award® for her performance.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Mara, age 68 (USA)
Positive—Very well done film. Acting was good and nobody overdid it. Loved Chrissy Metz and the realism she brought to her role. Story stayed true to actual events and nothing was glossed over. Families can have inner conflicts and turmoil even at times when they should ban together and that was shown realistically. Would definitely recommend this to families everywhere
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
Reba, age 60+ (USA)
Positive—This was very well made, I was impressed with the filming and the acting. The story is intense; it’s a tear jerker. I did appreciate how they just prayed, not demanding God’s healing, for He chooses to heal who gets healed. It was neutral in its approach, meaning it wasn’t all charismatic in the prayers or the way it was handled. It was a very good movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
Stephanie, age 44 (USA)

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